So much for a rebuilding year.
The BYU women’s volleyball team has pushed its way into the national spotlight this season despite returning only three seniors and losing one of its best players to another sport. The Cougars remain the sole undefeated team in West Coast Conference play and have climbed to a No. 20 ranking in the national coaches poll on the contributions of twelve underclassmen, including star outside hitter Alexa Gray.
The Cougars remain unbeaten (16–3, 9–0 WCC) after sweeping two matches on the road against conference foes Portland and Gonzaga and have now had a look at every team in the WCC. Going forward, the Cougars face another round of conference games with their familiar foes — and this time around, the Cougars have a target on their back.
“Now we’ve got a bigger bullseye so we have to get ready for everything,” said head coach Shawn Olmstead.
Early in the season BYU knocked off San Diego, the No. 2 team in the country, after the Toreros had knocked off the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked teams prior to their match with the Cougars. Since that win, the Cougars have begun to realize they would likely exceed all expectations this year.
This season hasn’t been easy, as the Cougars have had to make big adjustments without 6’7″ right-side hitter Jennifer Hamson in the game. She was an integral part of the team’s success in 2012–13.
“We’ve tried to be a little better in some other positions where we were so reliant on her on the right side,” Olmstead said. “We’ve got a little more consistent on the left side, and I still think we need to implement more in the middle.”
But the Cougars have adjusted nicely. Gray is considered a prolific threat on the outside and on Sept. 30 was awarded West Coast Conference Player of the Week.
The news just gets better from there.
BYU has won 22 consecutive home matches extending into the 2011 season, the seventh longest such streak in BYU history. BYU’s three losses this season have all come on the road at tournament matches, two of which were against defending conference champions.
BYU is also ranked sixth in the nation in blocks per set. The Cougars are ranked 34th in the nation in hitting percentage and first in the WCC. Junior setter Camry Godfrey, who is brand new to Division I volleyball, is ranked 45th in the nation in aces per set.
Olmstead said, however, that the Cougars’ winning streak and recent success are out of the picture when the Cougars prepare for each match.
“I think it’s important we focus on one at a time for the kids,” he said. “If they feel we are getting a little ahead of ourselves that’s where we get in trouble.”